Mama Meals: How to Cook Arroz Caldo
Mama Meals: How to Cook Arroz Caldo
In the latest installment of our video cooking series Mama Meals, where students prepare a dish that reminds them of home—with some long-distance assistance from family members via Zoom—Karmynn Lustria (COM’22) prepares arroz caldo, a tasty and comforting Filipino chicken and rice porridge seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, curry powder, cumin, and a few dashes of fish sauce.
When Karmynn was growing up in Raleigh, N.C., her mother, Floriane, would make this dish for her daughter, but for this episode of Mama Meals, Karmynn tries her hand at it for the first time, with Floriane looking on virtually.
“I remember when I was growing up, I was the taster. That’s how I started out,” Karmynn says. “Then I got promoted to sous chef, so I got to cut all the vegetables for the dishes—and I still got to taste.”
Arroz caldo, which translates roughly to warm rice, is a popular comfort food in the Philippines, where it is often served as a snack during cooler months, or as a cozy meal for when someone is ill. Unlike similar rice porridges, such as congee or okayu, the Filipino take is brimming with flavor.
There are numerous variations on the dish, not surprising given that the Philippines are an archipelago of more than 7,400 islands spread across 115,830 miles. Despite its Spanish name, arroz caldo has roots in Chinese cooking. Many recipes feature whole pieces of chicken cooked with ginger with the rice and simmered in water (or stock). Some versions of the dish also use safflower to add a yellowish hue and an extra layer of flavor. The Lustria family’s recipe does not, relying instead on garlic, lemongrass, curry powder, cumin, and a dash of fish sauce.
Although it takes a bit of time to prepare, between parboiling the chicken and cooking the rice and liquid to develop the proper thickness, the end result is worth the effort: a delicious, flavorful, and aromatic entrée perfect for a winter lunch or dinner. For extra protein and texture, arroz caldo servings are often topped with a hard-boiled egg and sliced scallions.
For a hint of citrus, many Filipinos squeeze a wedge of calamansi, a lime-like citrus from the Philippines, on top. It can be hard to find here in US supermarkets, but Karmynn, who is now the BU Pub’s food service supervisor, has a workaround.
“I like cutting up some lemon and juicing that on top, too,” she says. “But if you can find calamansi, that’s the best.”
Cooking time: 90 minutes
- 2 lbs chicken thighs (bone-in and skinless)
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk of celery
- 4 cups water
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
- 2 scallions (green onions), white parts sliced (green parts reserved for garnish)
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (preferably Knorr brand)
- 1 cup rice
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp curry powder
- 2 cups water (if needed)
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, tied into a knot
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- Salt and black pepper (to taste)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
- Scallions, sliced
In a stock pot, parboil the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, and enough water to cover all ingredients. Once the chicken appears cooked on the outside, remove it and put it aside. Save the cooking liquid, and discard the vegetables.
Add oil to a stock pot, and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add scallion, ginger, and garlic, and sauté. Once those aromatics have bloomed, add the chicken in and sauté for a few minutes, until lightly brown.
Add the rice and mix well. Add the cumin and curry powder and mix well. Allow spices to bloom for 30 seconds. Add broth and water to cover all ingredients. Bring the pot to a boil.
Add knotted lemongrass and the chicken bouillon cube. Boil, then simmer until the rice starts to soften. Season with salt, pepper, and fish sauce. The dish is done when most of the liquid is absorbed, and the arroz caldo has the consistency of thick oatmeal.
Garnish with chopped scallions, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and a wedge of lemon on the side.